Click here for West/Southwest IAF Key Victories in 2021

Together Louisiana Knocks on Doors to Encourage Vaccination Among Hard-to-Reach Neighbors

[Excerpts]

Volunteers with Together Louisiana went door-to-door across several Baton Rouge neighborhoods Monday, April 19, to educate people about the vaccine and answer any questions they might have from the comfort of their own home.

“Reality is we’ve all been held captive for over a year,” said Khalid Hudson.

Hudson is one of the organizers with Together Baton Rouge and Together Louisiana. He said most of the hesitation from people comes from misinformation.

“I know there’s a lot of information, a lot of websites, a lot of news coverage, but many folks may be in some of these communities might not watch regular news or might not have access to regular internet,” said Hudson. “So, it’s like that information still has not got to them. So, we’re bringing the information to their doorstep.”

[Photo Credit: WAFB 9]

Together Louisiana Going Door-to-Door to Sway Residents to Get Vaccinated, WAFB 9 [pdf]

Covid-19 Vaccine Sites and Testing Locations


Texas IAF Leaders Demand State Legislators Weatherize Power Grid, Provide Relief for Families Struggling with Repairs

[Excerpts]

The virtual press conference was organized by the Network of Texas IAF Organizations — a nonpartisan coalition of 10 primarily faith-based organizations across the state that represents more than 1 million people — and The Metropolitan Organization, a Houston-based civic group, to keep public attention on the aftermath of the widespread power outages that occurred earlier this year....

Texas IAF has thrown support behind Senate Bill 3, which would mandate weatherization under federal energy regulation guidelines. The bill passed on March 29 and now moves to the House. It would also impose penalties for noncompliance, increase coordination among state energy regulating bodies and create an emergency alert system.

"Our families have already suffered enough," said the Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith of St. John's Episcopal Church [of Central Texas Interfaith] in Austin. "They have paid more than their fair share of the cost for the mistakes of the energy industry and the unwillingness of the legislature to regulate the energy industry."

As legislation trudges through the legislature, the struggles continue across the state, members of The Metropolitan Organization said during the press conference. The budget strain of paying for repairs, they said, is especially felt by people living in apartments, whose landlords may not cover costs, as well as mobile home park residents and the elderly.

Pipes also burst at the home of Sorina Serrano, who is still waiting for repairs. A leader with The Metropolitan Organization Houston and member of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, Serrano said her home insurance coverage expired in March and other insurers have told her they won't cover the house until the repairs are made.

[Photo Credit: Isabelle Baldwin/CNS Photo]

After Texas' Winter Storm Disaster, Faith Leaders Press for Legislation to Ensure 'Never Again', Earthbeat- National Catholic Reporter [pdf]


VOICE-OKC Calls for Transparency in Who Benefits from Winter Storm Related Cost Spikes

[Excerpts]

Oklahoma City religious and community leaders are raising questions about how power providers plan to recover an estimated $4.5 billion spent on fuel during February's severe winter storm.

Power providers spent so much in the wake of the storm, a customer who might normally see a $100 February bill could have seen a nearly $2,000 bill instead, with months of similar bills to follow.

Some legislators recently submitted plans to mitigate these costs over time, but leaders of the civic organization VOICE OKC want assurance the process won't pass unreasonable fuel costs on to consumers.

“If we as consumers are going to be asked to pay $4.5 billion, we deserve transparency,”

said Eric Jergensen, a VOICE member representing the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House.

[Photo Credit: Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Civic Group Seeks Answers About $4.5 Billion in Storm-Related Fuel CostsThe Oklahoman [pdf]

Some Oklahomans Concerned Over Proposed Plan to Pay Off $4.5 Billion Utility Bills from February StormKFOR [pdf]

Advocates Call For Transparent Investigations Into Cost Spikes, The Norman Transcript [pdf]

 


Solid Advice for Erik Walsh: Talk to the Nun

Back in 1992, she was an organizer for COPS/Metro Alliance when the powerful community organization designed and persuaded the City to financially back Project Quest, which early on and to this day has been recognized as one of the most successful job training programs in the country. In 2011, when Project Quest was plagued with controversy from failings due not to corruption but to incompetence, Sister Pearl was brought in to turn it around. She did and ran the organization for six years.

Now the City of San Antonio is embarking on SA: Ready to Work, a program approved by the voters last November that will spend $154 million over five or six years in an effort to train the city’s working poor for good-paying jobs that the city is now generating.

[Photo Credit: Nick Wagner/San Antonio Report]

Solid Advice For Erik Walsh: Talk To The Nun, San Antonio Report [pdf]


Arizona Interfaith: Lawmakers Resort to Tricks, Bullying to Undo Prop 208

Mere months after Arizona citizens voted to significantly expand funding for public schools through passage of Proposition 208, state legislators crafted a new tax loophole for the wealthiest Arizonans to allow them to shield earnings that would have been taxable, including capital gains and investment income.

When Arizona Interfaith Network leader Fr. Hunter Ruffin attempted to testify about the consequences of this proposed loophole in a public committee hearing, state legislators strongly reacted, going so far as to cut short testimony and forbid mention of Prop 208 going forward.

In a Capitol Times Op-Ed, leaders from Arizona Interfaith Network and nonprofit group 'Stand for Children' detail what happened.

Lawmakers Resort to Tricks, Bullying to Undo Prop 208, Arizona Capitol Times [pdf]


CCHD Spotlights DAI's Covid Response & Path Forward

[Excerpts]

Three groups funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) strengthened their networks during the pandemic and developed innovative strategies that will likely persist after the virus is controlled....

“The pandemic has lifted a veil,” Josephine [Lopez-Paul] says. “The number of people who are living in poverty” is in our face, she says.

 “The need is there. You can’t ignore it. Poverty is not a secret in our city anymore.”

She adds, “DAI’s approach is still rooted in relationship, and that hasn’t changed. Clergy and leaders have been there for one another as part of a community.”

DAI is an affiliate of the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). It has 33 congregational members with approximately 300 active leaders. DAI conducts weekly virtual meetings for clergy to share concerns and potential solutions. At one meeting early in the crisis, a pastor reported that half of 30 participants contracted COVID-19 after an unmasked choir practice.   In response, celebrants of the weekly televised Mass from the diocesan cathedral began to use the final minute of the broadcast to urge compliance with masking and socialdistancing recommendations.

Like others, DAI has moved many activities, such as organizing and training programs, online. Josephine says this will continue beyond the pandemic, so that “imagination and vision” can be shared with isolated participants in rural areas, as well as with those who can attend in person.

[In photo: DAI Leaders and organizers meet with Dallas Police Commanders, including then-chief U. Renee Hall, following a meeting as DPD Headquarters.]

The Post-Pandemic Path Ahead, Catholic Campaign for Human Development


DAI Leaders Reiterate Call to 'Bring the Vaccines to the People'

[Excerpt from Dallas Morning News]

Racial and economic disparities have marked all aspects of the pandemic, from the early testing site locations to the diverging infection and death rates.The process for getting a vaccine still heavily favors those who have a car and internet access — making community outreach crucial in underserved areas, said Rogelio Sáenz, a demographer at the University of Texas at San Antonio who has studied the pandemic’s effects on communities of color....

Jenny Zacarias, a Peruvian immigrant, said more must be done to reach Latino and Black communities. She was vaccinated recently after the age limits were lowered to 50.

“Bring the vaccines to the people,” said Zacarias, 51.

That will improve efficiency and raise trust, said Zacarias, who volunteers with Dallas Area Interfaith at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. The group works with many undocumented immigrants, she said.

“They don’t trust the government. That is another concern. Who do they trust? They trust the church.”

Hispanic Texans are Still Struggling to Get Vaccines. Here’s How Dallas is Trying to Change That.Texas Tribune [pdf]

As COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Opens Up, Fears Persist That Residents of Color Will Continue To Be Left Behind, Dallas Morning News [pdf]

Some Churches Host Covid-19 Vaccination Clinics, Others AwaitNBC-DFW [pdf]


DAI Calls for Inclusion of Low-Income Families in Plans to Bridge Digital Gap in Education

[Excerpts]

About 1 million Texans don’t have home access to broadband, a state report found last summer.

The pandemic made Texas’ already gaping digital divide much more challenging, which had lawmakers pledging to close that gap. Gov. Greg Abbott named expanding broadband access one of his priority items at the beginning of session, and last week two omnibus bills gained traction when they each were unanimously voted out of their House and Senate committees.

About 15% of households in metropolitan areas don’t have access to broadband data plans, he said, and the problem can’t just be solved with infrastructure. Families also struggle with affordability and gaps in digital literacy.

It’s important to include “regular people” in the discussion process for these plans, said Josephine López Paul, the lead organizer for Dallas Area Interfaith, a coalition of congregations, schools and nonprofits. López Paul, who helps organize advocates around issues in their Dallas County communities, has noticed that many are still grappling with the same internet challenges as they were at the start of the pandemic.

“They need to do some bottom-up listening and not just assume they have a plan that’s going to work with people,” López Paul said. “They can put broadband structures in areas and if people don’t know that it’s there or that they need it … it’s just going to be a wasted effort.”

In recent hearings that drew overwhelmingly positive feedback from nonprofit advocates, school leaders and internet service providers, one lawmaker emphasized the bills aren’t a foolproof solution on their own.

[Photo Credit: Lola Gomez/DMN Staff Photographer]

Broadband Bills Gaining Traction, Dallas Morning News [pdf]


DAI to Welcome the (Unaccompanied Migrant Teen) Stranger to Dallas

[Excerpt]

Dallas Area Interfaith, a non-partisan group, made up of multiple religious congregations in the metroplex, is on standby to provide translation services per Lead Organizer Josephine Lopez Paul. 

The organization is searching congregations, mostly Catholic congregations, for bilingual volunteers in the metroplex who can talk to the children and get them moving towards the next immigration steps. 

"We sprung into action," Lopez Paul said. "Right now, we have 88 volunteers secured who have to undergo background checks and are hoping to get 200." 

One of the volunteers, Angelica Montanez, spoke with WFAA. 

"It's a guiding process," Montanez said, who is an immigrant herself from Mexico. "It's a friendly face that can speak  your language and help you out." 

[Do you want to volunteer?  Click here.]

'They're Scared and Alone': Immigration Advocates Describe What Teen Migrants Experience in Detention Centers Such as DallasABC News [video] [pdf]

Speedy Placement With Family Critical for Teenage MigrantsNBC News [video] [pdf]

U.S. to House Up to 3,000 Immigrant Teens at Dallas Convention Center, Dallas Morning News [pdf]

Gov. Greg Abbott Says There is a "Humanitarian Crisis" at Texas-Mexico Border, Texas Tribune [pdf]

Immigrant Teens Arrive At Temporary Shelter In Dallas, KERA News [pdf]

Dallas Catholics Pitch in to Help Migrant Teens, Catholic Philly [pdf]


VOICE-OKC & ACTION-Tulsa Secure $26.5M for Rental Aid in Oklahoma

[Excerpts]

In the face of impending evictions in Oklahoma, ACTION and VOICE-OKC leaders organized city councils from OK City, Tulsa, and Norman to urge the governor to expand the eviction moratorium in July.  Governor Stitt responded by allocating $10 Million in state funds for a rental assistance grant program ($5 Million for Tulsa and $5 Million for Oklahoma City).

In Tulsa, ACTION was the first organization to go to the county with the idea for rental assistance, and leveraged $15 million for local residents. When the county attempted to claw back unspent funds at the end of October, ACTION leaders fought to keep $3.5 million for a brand new utility assistance program, which helped over 6,000 families.

In Oklahoma City, VOICE-OKC leaders were critical players in the fight for Oklahoma County to use $1.5 Million in CARES Acts funding for rental assistance.  In combination with funds drawn down from the state, more that 5,200 families (estimated 17,368 people) were assisted.

Pastors and lay leaders from both organizations leaned into the fight to keep families sheltered, ultimately protecting tens of thousands across the state.

[Photo Credit: Video/ACTION Tulsa]

Tulsa City Council Asks Gov. Still to Put Most Evictions in State On Hold, Tulsa World [pdf]

Rental Assistance, Small Business Relief Programs Announced, The Oklahoman [pdf]

Tulsa County Organization Provides Rental Assistance, News On 6 [pdf]

Tulsa County Makes Cares Act Funds Available for Past-Due Utility Bills, Tulsa World [pdf]

Greg R. Taylor: Love Your Neighbor, Don't Evict Him, Tulsa World [pdf]

Good News Week 2021ACTION Tulsa